Our PM is up there with Greta Thunburg in the running for this year’s Peace Prize

Ardern in running for Nobel  Peace  Prize”, the  headline in the  NZ Herald’s  Monday edition proclaimed.

We  learn  from the text  of  the accompanying comment piece  by  the  Professor of  Law  at  Waikato University, Alexander  Gillespie,  that the PM,  Jacinda  Ardern,  is  rated  as second favourite, but  a  bit  behind the front-runner, young climate change activist  Greta  Thunburg.

Gillespie  says  that  although  Ardern does not command the  same  global  media coverage as Thunburg,  the depth of her response  to the Christchurch massacre  on March 15 has made  her  in the eyes of  many the best  candidate for the  award.

The sincerity, empathy and compassion  she  displayed  towards the families and their  Muslim was unique in an age when tolerance, respect and reconciliation are  rare”.

Gillespie  argues  her  legislative  and policy  agenda, from  the reform of the  gun laws, to  the Royal Commission to find out  how the risk slipped past the  authorities, through to the international  initiative in the Christchurch Call to tether the worst parts of the internet, is  “ground-breaking”.

Some   may  quibble  that Ardern failed  to  display  the  same sort of  empathy  and compassion  to  those   who levelled sexual harassment allegations against a  Labour Party staffer in  her office.  And even though  the policy agenda  initiated  after the Christchurch massacre might appear to be  ground-breaking, the gun law reform, for one,  has achieved only a bungled outcome.

But  Point of Order  accepts   such  quibbles   would be submerged  in  the blaze of  publicity  for  NZ   if   Ardern   were  to win the  Nobel  Peace  Prize.

New  Zealanders  have  always inclined  to  the view  that   their  leaders – particularly  those  from  Labour  governments – punch above their  weight on the  international   stage:  from  Peter  Fraser, through Norman  Kirk and  then David Lange,  more  recently   Helen  Clark—and  now  Jacinda  Ardern.

And  Ardern  continually  made the headlines  on her mission  to  the UN  last week  when her  schedule included  18  bilaterals  (including her first with President Donald Trump), nine speeches, two major announcements, two US media appearances and one  press conference.

So  while  the   government  she  leads  looks  increasingly  inept as it  deals  with its domestic   agenda,  and   its  efforts  to  create  a  sense  of  “well-being”  are  evoking  criticism   from even  the ranks of left-leaning lobby groups,  Ardern’s  international  aura   may sustain   its poll ratings  as  NZ  heads   towards the next election.

It  shows  again  how  the  power and  influence of  prime  ministers  are dependent  not so much on  the  political  skill  practised  by the incumbents  or  the  effectiveness of the policy reforms initiated  by them, but   by the   accidents  of  history:  in  Ardern’s case,  the Christchurch massacre.

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